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By Iver Pound
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We’ve been having a debate within Untold about how much clubs have spent on players in recent years and what have they got out of it – and indeed how this compares with others
On 20 December 2019, Arteta was appointed head coach so we decided to look at net expenditure from the summer of 2020 onward using Transfermarkt as the data source.
Now I know that when we have done this sort of thing before, a Manchester City fan has written in each time saying all our figures are wrong because Transfermarkt is a discredited source. He then quoted an alternative array of figures, which it took us a while to trace back, but found they came from the Manchester Evening News which when it deals in football, uses figures no one else seems to use. So we’re sticking with Transfermarkt as it still seems to us to be the most comprehensive and reliable source of transfer information over time, taking all the Premier League into account.
The table below shows the 10 top spenders from 2020/21 through to and including the window of summer 2023. I have added each club’s current league position in the final column. Leeds are of course spending some time in the Championship at the moment, taking in the scenery, that sort of thing.
|10||West Ham U||€453.26m||50||€227.60m||45||€-225.67m||7|
So we can see that the clubs placed 5th (Aston Villa) and 6th (Brighton and Hove) in the league at the moment are not in this expenditure chart. If we continued it down, Villa would be 11th in the net spend table and Brighton and Hove Albion 26th, the latter having made a profit of £125m on their transfers over this period. Everton are the only other team to have made a profit and stayed in the Premier League during the years we are looking at.
That Brighton achievement is certainly very unusual… either they have discovered the way to turn being a Premier League club into a profit-making business, or their chairman (who is a professional gambler) has the most amazing luck. And whatever they have been doing, I think a lot of clubs (such as Leeds United and Nottingham Forest) ought to be studying that method.
We can also take from this table the fact that just buying players by the dozen (or even gross) isn’t necessarily very clever. Four clubs have actually brought in over 100 players during this short period (honest – over 100!!!)
- Nottingham Forest: 120 players arrived 107 players departed
- Chelsea: 108 players arrived 97 players departed
- Brighton and Hove Albion: 108 players arrived 96 players departed
- Watford: 107 players arrived 111 players departed
- Wolverhampton Wanders: 103 players arrived 97 players departed
These are phenomenal numbers and I must admit that before I started looking at this issue I had no idea that the numbers could be this high. Arsenal’s numbers are 71 arrivals and 69 departures.
While we can say that the figures of the clubs above look like operations made as a panic response to a time of failure, we also have to note that Manchester City’s numbers are 98 players in and 90 players out.
Arsenal in fact are 13th in terms of the number of players arriving with 71 in (and 69 out). The lowest dealer in players is Crystal Palace with 46 in and 42 out.
So from this, we can see that Nottingham Forest have been dealing in players at about three times the rate as Crystal Palace. Palace are ninth in the league and Forest 13th.
Trying to pull all this together we can see that over the period we are studying here only six clubs have made a profit on their transfers. Four of those (Watford, Leicester, Norwich and Southampton) are no longer in the Premier League, and the other two are placed sixth (Brighton) and 16th (Everton).
So where are Arsenal in all this player turmoil?
Arsenal during the period we are studying (which is in effect Arteta’s period as manager) have been the third highest spenders (Chelsea are top with £1.44bn spent, Manchester City second spending £708m and Arsenal third, on £680m. Tottenham, if you are interested, are fifth on £632,).
Chelsea have brought in over half as many players again as Arsenal during this time, and have sold 40% more players than Arsenal. Six clubs made a profit on players during this period, but all of them except Brighton and Everton have bid farewell to the Premier League.
If there is not already a huge team of researchers trying to work out how Brighton have done it, I suspect there will be very soon. If it is not luck, but brilliant judgment, the most valuable people in the Premier League at the moment must be the Brighton transfer team. Or the club’s owner!
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